Call 2 Fall Sunday
June 30, 2013
Fr. Philip Eberhart
Call 2 Fall Sunday (AUDIO)
Over the past years this has been a Sunday dedicated to the actualization of the verse in Second Chronicles 7:14 regarding a nation’s need for humble prayer and repentance, seeking the face of God and turning from wickedness. That has not changed, in fact, I believe the times cry out for it in ever greater proportions these days.
I want to look for a moment at that scripture in its context through, in a state that currently has something like a dozen active fires and is in one of the most significant droughts of its history, the verse preceeding the 14th verse is of great interest.
Verse 13 says “If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people; If my people, which are called by my Name, shall humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”
Given the context of these verses and the context of our national life right now, both in Colorado with our dryness and fires, and in the nation, with the dryness of Spirit that is rampant and the recent decisions of our government and courts, we are more in need of the intervention and forgiveness of God than ever!
The Call 2 Fall weekend is a time for us to enact 2 Chron 7:14 – to humble ourselves by kneeling before God in our worship services and to give significant time to prayer for our nation and its spiritual health.
But also this morning, in the regular flow of our lectionary we have the answer to a question I have been asking in this regard. What can we DO Lord? What must we do, in the face of the decisions and directions that our country is hell-bent on going? For me the answer came in a conversation with our bishop, yesterday and in the scripture for this morning from Galations 5.
So let’s consider the call first and then our response to our need and the need of our culture.
The Call of God to fall on our knees and to engage in acts and in a lifestyle of repentance is one that is on-going through the history of God’s people. The context of 2 Chron is the finishing of the 1st Temple, Solomon’s Temple – and here, from the very outset, God set forth the problem and the solution.
The problem is the fact that my people are wayward. In those times the lack of rain, or the presence of locusts and pestilence or disease, was a sign of the dis-favor of God for the actions of His people. The supernatural had ramifications in the natural. It’s given me pause to wonder today as we lose thousands of acres of land and hundreds of homes to fire if more is going on than meets the eye. I just wonder?
But God has given us a key with which to open the door again to his Favor and blessing on our land! Let’s look for a moment at the key: turn with me to 2 Chronicles 7
IF MY PEOPLE
MY PEOPLE: Called by My Name
God is not calling the whole nation at once, obedient and disobedient together. He is talking to His Children here. To those who have accepted the Name of God and who have been Marked as Christ’s Own Forever! That’s you and me, if we have named the name of Christ as savior and profess to follow Him in our lives. We are His People. He is Our God. The onus is on us, friends – not on the supposed “wicked” people. In fact it is not our part to even identify who that might be! Only God knows the shape and the intent of our hearts.
This week I was reflecting on the verses in Romans 1 – the chapter that contains the most frightening words of Holy Writ: “God Gave Them Over.” God let them be; gave them their way; let them go. Several times in the 1st Chapter of Romans Paul uses this phrase.
And there is a kind of progression into reprobation.
A. Uncleanness = the luxury of profligate living! A-Katharsia (Catharsis is the greek root for an emotional cleansing – especially around the shedding of tears in our modern parlance) Thus Uncleanness is having No More Tears (about our behavior and its effects on the world around us)
B. Shameful Passions = the words used here are even more clear – what God sees is vile. (atimia = as vile as a dead body). Our passions (pathos) are broken, twisted and marred – no reflection of that which is intended by God for our mutual joy. And finally, God gives us over to ...
C. Reprobation – but again a very interesting word picture here – adokimos. In the ancient world there was no uniform coinage, no paper money – it was all by weight of silver or gold. And a coin was intended to have a full weight of a particular metal. Some whittled the coins down to their very least and then put them into circulation. Others chose the honorable route of full weight, genuine currency in their dealings – these men were called dokimos. In the NT it occurs 7 times and is translated as “approved” - Study to show yourself approved unto God! So a-dokimos is one not approved by God – one who is fake – light-weight! One whose life just doesn’t measure up!
We were discussing this progression in one of our meetings after the Supreme Court decisions this week and I was waxing eloquent about all this, and then I came to the 2nd chapter of Romans. We don’t like to go there much:
Rom 2:1 NLT - You may think you can condemn such people, but you are just as bad, and you have no excuse! When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do these very same things.
Paul is real clear that the accusing ones and the accused ones are really in the same boat. We are all “stubborn, refusing to turn from our sin, storing up terrible punishment.” We have no way, in and of ourselves, to distinguish ourselves from the culture, because we have the same motives and sinful passions, though our actions may differ in some ways.
So let us turn to the reading from Galations today, in the normal course of our lectionary texts! Once again, God’s word, from the lectionary – readings that were set out to be read in the normal course of the life of the Church, hundreds of years ago – speaks to the very moment we are living in this day:
For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.
Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.
Let me just pick a few points out of this Word today:
The goal of Christ in our life is FREEDOM – Freedom from Sin; Freedom from the Law.
In Romans 8 Paul says that the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ has SET US FREE from the Law of Sin and Death! So we are called to that kind of freedom! We in the U.S. have a particular affinity for Freedom, but we do not often use it wisely. Paul warns us, “Do not use your freedom as an opportunity for [evil].” Instead we are urged to LIVE BY THE SPIRIT, not gratifying the desires of the flesh. Those desires are listed for us, as if we need a reminder: Fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissentions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and such like. Jesus had such lists – that which comes from inside a man, defiling him and his life. The point here is that we are all partakers in these things!
"By contrast," Paul says, look here! The fruit of the Spirit is Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Gentleness, and self-Control. There is no law against these things!
In our country where we now have no law against almost anything, it still is our part in the worship of the King and the spread of His Kingdom, to live “according to the Spirit” not gratifying or making provision for the lusts of the flesh.
As I said last week, as we rail again the darkness let us remind ourselves that the darkness is just doing what it does – being dark! The problem with being in darkness is not with the dark – it is with the light! And what we have just read is the definition of ‘LIGHT” in our world – every day, moment-by-moment – those who live out the Fruit of the Spirit will be the Light of the World! Make no mistake that our response to this week's actions in our country will be tested. As the coins we spoke of before, our metal will be tried – weighed, if you want. And what will the world around us find?
My prayer is that they find us REAL. That they find us having the FULL WEIGHT of the Glory of God and of God’s approval on our lives. But we must remember that that glory is not gained by standing in the accuser’s place, pointing out the sins of others. It is gained as we kneel and humble ourselves before the hand of an almighty and sovereign God, begging his forgiveness for our own sins, our own wickedness, our own falsehood, and making a way for him to come again and heal our land.
So let us kneel and bow before him, if you are able, with me this morning. We will be in this position for a few minutes, so if you are not able please be seated and bow your heads in prayer.